Straight Talk about Curly Haired Characters of Literature and Film

The “horrid” little girl with curly hair.

There was a little girl, who had a little curl,                  

right in the middle of her forehead.

And when she was good, she was very, very good.

But when she was bad she was horrid!

So goes the old rhyme that made any curly haired girl feel as if she were horrid all of the time, having more than just one curl in the middle of her forehead.

 It seems that literature and film have also placed the curly haired girl , and boy too, on the  list of  quirky, murderous, volatile and just plain odd characters of fiction.

Think of the great women of literature for a moment. Now before you point out that Eliza Bennet had curly hair, let me remind you that hair style fashions of the time dictated it. Elizabeth Bennet wore forced ringlets into her otherwise naturally straight hair.

Daisy Buchanan, from The Great Gatsby, Jane Eyre, Julia from Orwell’s 1984, Cathy Ames from East of Eden, Holly Golightly from Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Tess from Tess of the D’Ubervilles, Emma Bovary from Madame Bovary, just to name a few, all had straight hair. Don’t believe me? Check out The Composites, a site developed by Brian Joseph Davis. The site is self described by Davis. “Images created using a commercially available law enforcement composite sketch software and descriptions of literary characters.”

OK, I get it! Female protagonists of literature must have straight hair in order to be perceived as being serious, attractive and normal.

Just think of the words used to describe curly hair; unruly, wild, exotic, untamed, and frizzy. Now here are a few describing straight hair; polished, shiny, silky, smooth, and flowing. Who would you ask out on a date?

Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction: Not your ideal girlfriend.

Michael Douglas had an extra marital affair with a blonde curly haired Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction. She likes married men, knives, elevators and bunnies. We all know how well that turned out.

When John Cleese needed a pet loving hit man to kill an elderly witness to a crime in his film A Fish Called Wanda, he picked Michael Palin, who promptly permed his hair and gave the world K-K-Ken Pile, and did no favors to curly haired men anywhere on this planet.

Michael Palin as Ken Pile in A Fish Called Wanda: Not your ideal boyfriend, well not as Ken Pile! Otherwise he’s grand though!

I can see that the shape of my face looks different when I wear my hair straight.One night when I was out to dinner with my husband, our friends refused to come over and say hello because, “We thought he was with a different woman!” I wonder would they have called to tell me that? Hmm. I know I look different with straight hair, but I am also treated differently too. I am perceived as being more jovial, quirky and a good sport with curly hair. With straight hair I am taken more seriously, treated standoffish, whilst at the same time being told that it is “a sexy look.”

That being said, who’s the naughty girl now, the horrid girl with the curls who seems approachable and jovial, or the good girl with straight hair who gets more looks but less chat?

The “good” little girl with straight hair.

I  like my curly hair. Yes it is quirky, but it is me. I like having straight hair too. It does make me feel polished. But most of all I like having the choice of being curly or straight.

Now let me get back to boiling this little rabbit.

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2 thoughts on “Straight Talk about Curly Haired Characters of Literature and Film

  1. I just want to thank you for this post. I have curly hair as well and lately it’s really been bothering me, the lack of literary as well as film characters with curly hair. I was just complaining to my husband about having a hard time deciding on a costume for halloween because anything I could be requires me to straighten my hair. I was ecstatic when Brave came out and finally there was a curly haired heroine but I’m afraid that’s where the train will stop. On a non-literary/film note, can I say that one of the most shallow depressing moments of my life was when Taylor Swift started straightening her hair? It made me almost sick that everyone was praising her new look as “more adult and polished,” as if curly hair is a childish thing we should be growing out of.

    • Couldn’t agree more Emily!!! My current book Mona, The Body in the Bog has two females who are each the protagonist of their stories, one is a Celtic woman the other present day, and they BOTH have curly hair. Just had to have curly hair!!!! Thanks for commenting my fellow girl with curls!!

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